Gravel racing focuses on long distance off-road riding that is less technical than mountain biking. This sport is designed to be accessible to riders of all abilities, making it a great way to get into bicycle racing.
A gravel race functions more like a running event than a road cycling race. The largest events have thousands of competitors ranging from beginners to pro athletes. The race begins with a mass start, putting everyone on the course at the same time. There’s no broom van in gravel events, so competitors need to bring tools for on-course repairs. On longer races, racers carry first aid kits, in case they have an injury in a remote area.
Races come in three major formats. A standard gravel race is usually longer than a road race, although many events have several course options. An enduro race has riders complete timed segments that are part of a larger course. It’s up to the riders to decide how fast they want to ride between the segments. Ultra-endurance events are similar to randonneuring, with cyclists riding long distances unsupported. Depending on the length of the route, it might be a single day event, or have several stages. Metric and imperial century-length races are common, but some events span hundreds or thousands of kilometres.
Gravel racing has been around for about 15 years, and the first production gravel bike came out just a decade ago. Due to this short history, regulations are looser than other racing formats. This lets each gravel cyclist choose from a wide range of tires, handlebars and even frames, so they can tailor their bike to fit race conditions. This relaxed attitude extends outside the race. Most events have a party atmosphere, and pros are free to mingle with fans.